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Recommended Raid Configuration for Bare Metal Virtualization on Dell Server

Posted on 2013-01-16
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I have a new Dell R620 Server with 4 146 GB SAS Drives and 4 600 GB Drives.  I'm thinking of going with a VMware bare metal setup.  The more I read the more I get confused.  I guess there is some iDrac software that I should use from Dell, but other than that I'm wondering how I should set up the RAID.  I'm used to setting up a RAID 1 for the OS and then a 5 for data.  Does anyone have any pointers, articles or even books that would point out what would be the best practices.
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Question by:adrienne73
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE) earned 400 total points
ID: 38783916
Why not install ESXi 5.1.0 on a USB flash drive or SD card which is supported by VMware and Dell, and save your rotational disks for VM storage?

Here is the VMware KB on installing 5.0 on USB/SD:
http://kb.vmware.com/kb/2004784

VMware vSphere 5.1 Install Guide

See my EE Articles

How to Backup an ESXi installation on an USB Flash Drive or SD card, for security or redundancy.

HOW TO:  VCP 5 - contains books and references.

I would recommend RAID 10 for performance, good for read and write, or RAID 6 also good for read and write performance, but not as good as RAID 10, but also has good resilience if disks shiould fail.

Also, login on the Dell Support WebSite, enter your Tag Number for the server and download the ESXi OEM software from Dell for your server.
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by:adrienne73
ID: 38783947
I hear you about the SD or USB, but to freaked out about having to deal with it going down cause once it's dead, it's dead.  I also want it all self contained.  As for the RAID 10 are you saying 2 RAID 10s?  Not following.
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by:Levi Gwyn
Levi Gwyn earned 100 total points
ID: 38783970
Hi adrienne73.  First I would download the Dell optimized version of VMware ESXi - this is free.  This will ensure you get the version that supports your hardware.  

Not sure if the PE R620 has an internal SD card slot or internal USB but if it has one of the other, install VMware on the SD card and set your BIOS to boot from this device.  Don't install VMware on your internal drives because it uses up valuable drive space and is less fault tolerant than an SD card or USB key.  Here is why - if your SD card or USB key dies, just replace it with another like copy of VMware.  If your drive array dies with VMware installed on it, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Depending on what your VMs are configured to do, you can arrange your RAID configuration accordingly.  There are lot of options and it all depends on your priorities.  RAID 10 is the best tradeoff between fault tolerance and speed but "wastes," for lack of a better word, a lot of drive space.

In your setup, you can do two RAID 10 arrays - one with the 146GB drives and one with the 600GB drives.

You can also do two RAID 5 arrays.  This gives you the most disk space and the most fault tolerance but is the slowest scenario.
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LVL 117
ID: 38783995
USB flash drives and SD cards, rarely fail, we've been using USB/SD card installs since 2004!

and none have failed, and are still in production.

The USB/SD card is not used after the Server has booted! Keep a copy as per my article, and your done!

Hard Disks fail more often than flash!

Yes, RAID 10 for Both, although it's rather wasted to install ESXi on four disks, it only uses 1GB!
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Expert Comment

by:teomcam
ID: 38784027
First thing is you have 4x 146GB and 4x 300GB disks so 5 disk RAID configurations are out for you! You cannot use 146GB along 300GB disks!
So since you are going to use virtulization you must consider each vistual machines memory first! That is important because when you assign 32GB memroy to a virtual machine, that means your 32 GB HDD space will dissapear at the beginning. PLUS your vistual OS such as Windows server also requires around 20GB. Without installing or doing anything your significant amount of HDD space going to be used. Above example only for 1 single virtual machine!.
Ofcourse if you don;t need much data storage then go for RAID 10 for 4x300GB and 4x146GB sets. This will give you the best performance, best protection and worst space! Fault tolerance 1 (2 if the HDD failure on the same span)

Alternatively you may go for RAID5. If you are going to do write intensive work then forget it. This option will give better overall HDD space, same read performance as RAID 10 and worst write perfromance. Fault tolerance 1 HDD only.
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by:Levi Gwyn
ID: 38784058
Folks type faster than me.  I hope I didn't step on anyone’s toes with my response.  Believe me, I second hanccocka's comments about installing on an SD card or UBS stick.  It's very easy to recover from a dead SD card than it is to recover from an dead disk array where VMware was installed.

We have 11 VMware hosts that are all on SD cards.
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Author Comment

by:adrienne73
ID: 38784203
Thank you to all for your recommendations.  USB Flash drive with 2 RAID 10s it is.  So no Dell iDrac right?
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Expert Comment

by:Levi Gwyn
ID: 38784220
The iDRAC is a really nice to have piece of gear - not a requirement.  If you can budget it, I say get it.  It will allow you to install VMware and manage your server remotely.  All our servers have an iDRAC.
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LVL 117
ID: 38784308
unless you lose networking, or cannot get to the console, iDRAC not required
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Author Closing Comment

by:adrienne73
ID: 38784490
Thanks to all for your answers.  They are most helpful.
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